Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Mediterranean Diet News

Diets, food fads, and "oh, don't eat this!" warnings annoy me. Most people can barely sit down to dinner at the table let alone navigate the admonishments of what not and what to eat. There is arsenic in your rice. Gluten in your wheat which whether or not you are actually allergic to it, most people believe it is better if you don't eat it. Carbs versus no carbs? Soy is a killer. Peanut butter is contaminated. Nothing is safe to eat and this kind of news is exhausting!

Except that my years on the cardiac wards of various American hospitals told me a different story. That story is about processed food, slabs of meat, and no time and no clue as to what to do with real food when or if it was found. There was also stress, tobacco, out of control blood pressures, no regular visits to the doctor, and a whole host of other problems.

Part of my job was to talk about diet. In Washington, DC, I talked to a young guy in his thirties and just over three hundred pounds about his lunch routine of fast food. He asked me, "Where am I going to get the kind of food I am supposed to eat?" He was looking at my deck of cards that represented the portion size of meat he should eat per day as opposed to the size of a burger patty he ate at one meal most days. My answer, "You have to take your lunch. You have to cook." He agreed with me. I wonder how he's doing?

People watch cooking shows on TV but don't cook. There are kitchens decked out with the latest Home Depot bling and the only thing used? Ching ching, as my Japanese friends call the microwave oven. You can know a lot about food, but eventually you have to start cooking it.

Cooking takes time, experience, and if you want to have it at certain times, some kind of plan. And then there is that whole thing about, "What's for dinner?" What should you be cooking?

Today I listened to a guy in line at the post office riffing about the kinds of beers everyone orders these days. He asked, "Who remembers Bud!" He's obviously missed the blog or he'd know "we’re all a lot weirder than we used to be." Budweiser probably misses those days too, but the local brewers probably don't. Personally, I was standing in-line silently grateful for the twenty varieties of beer I can find around town.

This brings me to some welcome news just published by The New England Journal of Medicine. I stumbled across an article on The New York Times app on my widget. I had to read this part aloud to my husband who knows first-hand of my disregard for the diet industry, "The study ended early, after almost five years, because the results were so clear it was considered unethical to continue." The mediterranean diet-- beans, peas, lentils, vegetables, fruits, extra olive oil and nuts, small portions of white meat, and alcohol in moderation (one a day)-- is good for you. Woohoo! It does limit commercially made cookies, cakes, pastries, as well as dairy products and processed meat, but at least it gives us all some place to go that doesn't involve heat but includes fat.

Elizabeth Andoh's TED talk adds another easy tip-- go for the five colors. There is no measuring, no weighing, just try to eat food that has these five colors-- red, green, yellow, black, and white.

One last thing, if you're in need of some cooking inspiration or where to find some food color, you might try Dirt to Fork. We could get inspired together.

Daikon Salad
Adapted from Aki Nansai

Serves 4

Garlic, 1 clove, zested
Spicy oil, a bit, ½ tsp
Sugar, ⅔ Tbsp
Rice Vinegar, 3 Tbsp
Sesame oil, ½ tsp
Salt, ½ tsp
Dried Tree Ear “kikurage,” ½ cup dried (soften in hot water + pinch of salt), chopped
Daikon Japanese Radish, 1 small cut into fine sticks
Tomato, 2, cut into wedges or 1 cup of cherry tomatoes halved
Fresh Cilantro, a few sprigs, wash, remove stems, chop leaves
Dried Goji or Wolf berries, a handful for garnish

What to Do
  1. Mix dressing- garlic, spicy oil, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, & salt. 
  2. Soak tree ear in warm water with a pinch of salt until soft, then drain and cut.
  3. Peel Daikon, cut into 4 sections lengthwise, then cut into 3 sections, and then cut each section into small sticks.
  4. Use half of the dressing on the daikon sticks. 
  5. Use other half of dressing to marinate tree ear. 
  6. On a platter, layer daikon, tree ear, & tomatoes.
  7. Garnish with cilantro & berries.
  8. Toss Salad and serve.

Daikon Salad (white) with tree ear (black), tomatoes (red), & parsley(green)

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